Pownce is to Twitter as Facebook is to MySpace.
If you know what I mean — you know what I mean.
Pownce is to Twitter as Facebook is to MySpace.
If you know what I mean — you know what I mean.
There are a lot of words flying around to describe citizen journalism. I’ve begun leaning towards “network journalism” for various reasons. Contained within that is “distributed reporting” (reporting in various geographic locations with the aid of multiple contributors), but I wanted to take a post to create a few analogies to better describe how I see network journalism and how traditional news organizations can frame their thinking a little differently to encompass and welcome what can be a powerful content creating model.
The first thing to realize is that this is community journalism. That doesn’t mean — covering a community. But rather — relying on a community to help you do the work that needs to get done. If done right, it can lead to a fuller story about what you are covering. At Assignment Zero we collected over 80 interviews with leaders in the world of crowdsourcing.
Some call that crowdsourcing. I consider it “relationship management.” It’s a trait that all journalists learn to some degree. We are always told to manage our relationships with sources. Keep them at a close distance of course, (as my old profesor said ‘you can cover the circus, just don’t fuck the elephant), but you need to be friendly with your sources — so you can rely on them again in the future. That is relationship management. And yes, it is a lot of work.
Community journalism on the Web is a bit different, but once you become a netizen it will feel like second nature. So here are a few analogies, just for fun.
1. The party.
This is often the first analogy I give when I’m trying to explain network journalism.
Traditionally: The act of journalism is a solo affair. At best it’s a clique that eats lunch together on the quad every day in highschool.
Network Journalism: You are hosting a party. Make sure you clean the house and prepare snacks. Send out the invites and mingle throughout the process. Be ready to think on your feet. If the party goers want to dance, you may need to appoint a D.J and rearrange the furniture rather quickly. The good news is, if you sent out enough invites, you’ll have plenty of people to help do the lifting with you.
2. The bucket of Feugo (fire).
Traditionally: Journalism is like cooking a mean BBQ. Only one person can stand in front of the grill. Maybe an editor will come by to roast the buns.
Network Journalism: Ever notice in the absence of television people inherently love to stare at a fire? A bucket of fire is easy to get going and it can be a collaborative process. Someone gathers wood, an alpha male usually steps up to proclaim themselves the fire-starter. But once the marshmallows come out everyone gets a shot at cooking their creations. Inevitably — people station themselves in a circle and while they may be focusing on the dancing flames, they are facing each other. Around a fire is a perfect opportunity to begin an intense discussion.
3.The board game
Traditionally: Solitaire anyone?
Network Journalism: Healthy communities often form when people are in some form of competition. I’m not talking gladiator, kill or be killed, but rather — everyone knows they are taking part for good clean fun and that the competition is there to bring the best out of them. Rewards can be in the form of money, or simple points (re: Digg). Board games are so 20th-century (I know), but they tap into something inherent. Get a bunch of people together in a room, give them an incentive to “win” something — and they will engage each other. Network journalism is still waiting for its Monopoly.
4. The Sports team
Taping into the same competitive nature as board games, you also have sports teams. What happens when you get a group of people and put them on a team. Not only is there competition, but camaraderie.
5. Religious communities (also knows as the Kum-ba-ya effect)
Traditionally: Saying your night time prayers. It’s just you and the big guy.
Network journalism: Although a religious figure leads the proceedings, I imagine the reason why an entire day out of the week is dedicated to prayer is to allow for entire communities to gather and pray together. Somehow the experience is enhanced. Furthermore, the best religious leaders adapt their sermons to reflect what is going on in their community. In the past entire communities were centered around this community relationship tool.
Similarly – network journalism isn’t devoid of leaders, but those “editors” are responsive. They don’t report an issue by themselves only to dictate it to the community on Sunday. They invite the community into their palace of journalism to pray together that the journalism gods will give them a scoop.
6. The Musical Jam Session
Traditionally: The school orchestra. Everyone stares at their sheet music. Maybe up at the conductor, but all that hand waving never meant anything to me. (I played trombone for two years).
Network journalism: You don’t always know where the song is going to end up. But there is still a certain amount of ESP involved. Ask any group of jazz/jam musicians that play together regularly. They can just look at each other and know a change is coming. (I’ve played drums in four bands since I quite the school orchestra)
And don’t forget about the economics of the Grateful Dead. Flying in the face of traditional music business models, they allowed audience members to bootleg their performances — and traditional Deadheads added that these tapes should be shared freely. Maybe the G.D. didn’t make as much in record sales — but man did they have a loyal fan base, which allowed them to make plenty of money on the road.
7. The Starfish and the Spider
Traditionally: Chop off a spider’s head and you have a dead eight legged creature on your hands.
Network journalism: Chop a starfish in half and you end up with two starfish. That is the power of a decentralized organization.
Note: In response to this Dan Gillmore once wrote to me: “Starfish are great at survival, but not much else….”
8. Show and Tell
Traditionally: Okay class it’s time for SLT (Silent Reading Time)
Network Journalism: Everyone gets their time to share. Granted — to the teacher most of the objects won’t be illuminating (aside from a peak into the personal psychology of their students), but for the individuals, that time in front of their peers can be an important factor in how they define themselves. It’s about community!
9.Got anything? Leave a comment.
It had great action and it made me feel like I was eight-years-old again. Optimus Prime’s dialog was pretty cheesy, but in my mind it was just staying true to the cartoon. So despite what I’m going to write below, I give the movie a thumbs-up. (Also see the image at the end of this post — how cool is that!)
It wasn’t until after the movie got out that I realized Transformers fell victim to a totally unnecessary movie stereotype.
As the movie progresses we are introduced to Optimus Prime and his crew of autobots. There is Bumble Bee, the lovable character who was closest with the kids (staying true to the cartoon) and three others — including a medic and a weapon specialists. The third and final autobot was named “Jazz.”
The first time you see Jazz he is doing what can only be called break-dancing. As Optimus introduces his autobot colleagues they each get a line or two. The autobots learned English through the Internet — and I’m not sure what sites Jazz was crawling on — because he spoke slang. I can’t remember exactly what he said — but it was probably something like “Yo, how’s it hanging in the hood.”
It was unmistakable — Jazz is the token black Transformer.
(Warning: small plot spoiler)
Once Megatron is awakened the autobots meet him in battle. The last 20 minutes of the movie are fantastic. Chases, explosions, etc etc.
At one point Jazz is forced to engage Megatron all alone. He is killed.
That’s right, the only autobot to die is Jazz, the black autobot. Cliche — yes.
Jack Shafer has an article out today in Press Box on the newspaper of the future “If we’re lucky, it will look something like the newspaper of the past.” Found via Center for Citizen Media.
It’s an excellent article. The main point: Just because they aren’t employing as many people doesn’t mean newspapers in the future will have to suck.
“The connection between quality and head count would seem intuitive, but a dip into the microfilm archives of the New York Times and Washington Post shows that decent newspapers have been produced with far fewer hands.”
While I agree with Shafer, that the number of employees doesn’t necessarily equate to quality, I find it hard to imagine that future newspapers will be anything like what the newspapers of old were. It’s just a simple fact — we live in an age where information travels fast and furious. Maybe the reporting was good, but they still delivered the morning paper with a horse and buggy. That won’t cut it today.
Jack Shafer is a smart guy who probably realizes this too. In fact, the one time I spoke with Shafer was for an article on Internet Multitasking Syndrome — writing for the web in an age when the average attention span is less than 10 seconds. Catering to that fact alone requires a different approach to news.
Point is: I imagine the newsroom of the future to be very different from current or old newsrooms in one major and all encompassing change: Newsrooms will be open. Newsrooms will be public resources, like your local library — it will be a space for content producers to come and and work on stories in collaboration with their local reporters (just like doing research with a librarian today). They will share knowledge and use the resources (perhaps even state funded resources) to cover their local government.
Perhaps even fourth grade classes will take field trips to their newsroom when they reach the “online” part of their curriculum. “Okay class, today we are going to learn about blogging. And to show us, a real reporter from our local paper will tell us about the newsroom and how you too can use it.”
The newsroom of the future might not have as many “employees” — but it will have lots of volunteers. It will host unconferneces and will let people check out video and audio equipment.
This might be a scary though to a reporter today — but for the practice of journalism it can only be good. It just requires a shift in thinking in order to accept it and realize the potential behind a civic newsroom.
Is Digg a "democracy" or a cult of personality?
I ask because since I joined the community in the beginning of 2006 there has been one giant pink drunken elephant in the community that has lead me to believe it is the latter. Kevin Rose.
Yes, Digg has the power to democratize the front page of a virtual newspaper. Together the Digg community determines the most important news of the day. And for the most part, we choose wisely. Sure, there have been a few screw-ups along the way, but hey — that's what learning is all about.
In the meantime, Diggnation has spawned what has the potential to be a revolution. Dozens of social news sites have sprung up since. At some point or another Digg has been on the lips of every geek in America. And anyone can tell you — the geeks run things now.
So what's the problem?
Kevin Rose still has a 100 percent front page ratio.
This discredits everything that Digg stands for.
In the traditional top-down media a mean spirited editor calls all the shots. He sits behind a desk, with a cigar in his mouth, deciding what makes the front page. After that decision he puts a bounty on Spider-man's head (to help complete the image).
But Digg changes all that….. I think.
Kevin Rose might not be as grumpy as J. Jonah Jameson, but he is acting as an all powerful editor none-the-less. That power doesn't come from his position as founder of Digg, but rather because he is oh so cute and liked by all.
Hey. I think it's fantastic that the founder of such a great site such as Digg is liked by all. In fact, I'd love to meet Kevin and have a beer with him. He seems like a fun guy to hang out with. But Digg belongs to all of us. And somehow we all have collectively decided that Kevin can't fail. And while he is awesome, that's just unrealistic. Hell, I've seen him send a story to the front page just by digging it — because everyone watches what he Diggs and follows suit.
Are some of the stories good. Sure. Do I think every single story Kevin has submits deserves to go to the front page. No way. I don't think anyone has perfect news judgement.
So what does this tell us about Digg?
1. People tend to vote for stories on a few metrics. One of them is the personality of who submitted the story. End result — The quality of the stories goes down.
So what do I propose?
That's a tough one, because this problem doesn't just exist around Kevin.